SA week: Literature

Books

South African-born Bessie Head spent most of her writing life in exile in Botswana, eventually becoming a citizen. The perpetual outsider (Bessie was born of a wealthy white woman and black servant in a time where interracial relationships were illegal), her works often deal with the different psychological dimensions of identity. Among her novels are A Question of Power, The Collector of Treasures and Maru.

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was the first Secretary-General of the ANC and one of the first black South Africans to have a book published in English. This book was Mhudi, published in 1930, a magnificent piece of historical fiction chronicling the creation of nationhood in the south of Africa.

A member of the Drum boys, whose dictum was “live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse,” Can Themba‘s writing graphically depicts urban life in 1950s South Africa.  He explores conflicts between the modern urban setting and the rural traditional one as well as telling of the effect of Apartheid policy on the aspirations of young, hopeful, educated blacks. Requiem for Sophiatown and The Will to Die are among his works. (Can Themba’s Drum days must have inspired Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” video)

More literary highlights on Lonely Planet.

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